Resident DVD Reviewer
A DVD REVIEW: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) - UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT (Universal)
I know I am going to get a lot of slack for this one. I am not a fan of the original George Romero Dawn, but I DO have it in my collection for comparison sake now that this remake has come out --- which I feel has been the best effort out of all the horror remakes that have recently flooded the theaters. And before anyone begins their attacks on why the original is better, let me say this: I RESPECT the original for what it was; it's just that to me, this new one brings the zombie excitement to a whole new level and relieves some of the "pacing problems" I believe plauged the first film. And believe me --- I am NOT an advocate of these remakes; the new version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre just completely SUCKED and ruined the vision and downright creepiness of Tobe Hooper's original creep fest; the only saving grace of the film, as I have said, was getting to see Jessica Beil and those great tits of hers in the tank tops she wears and that awesome ass of hers in those jeans.....and dont even get me started on the recent Amityville Horror remake which was COMPLETELY and UTTERLY inaccurate to the true story of what happened to that family in Amityville, New York, because I used to live twenty minutes from the real house where it all happened and I know all the stories and family that was involved in that case. The remake was an insult and completely inaccurate.
I couldnt have been the only one, though, who felt this remake was exciting; when I showed this DVD during last Halloween's Horror Movie Marathon party I hosted at my apartment, EVERYONE loved it and it went over very well with all my guests. In fact, it was the talk of the evening.
While fans argue that Romero's Dawn was more of a kind of "political satire" more than a balls-out horror film, Zack Snyder's version, to me, was just a whole lot more exciting, and I thought was the best horror film of the time when I left the theater after seeing it. Again, like in the original, we have survivors of a strange flesh-eating-zombie plague hiding out in a shopping mall, as in Romero's version, but thats pretty much where the similarities end. In Snyder's remake, the opening sequence is brilliant --- not showing the title of the film until well into the zombie eating action; in the original, the film opens with a news broadcast regarding the flesh-eating zombie problem --- in this remake, Sarah Polley is a nurse who comes home from an exhausting shift to join her husband in bed, and then in a love making scene in a shower. As we hear the creepy music begin, we know something is up, and as the couple lie in bed together, their bedroom door creeps open, showing a little girl standing in the doorway. It seems to be their neighbor's kid they usually babysit for, but suddenly the girl shows blood all over her face, fangs for teeth and glowing eyes, and this rabid zombie child manages to bite the neck of Polley's husband in a rather greusome scene where the skin from his neck stretches from his body to the zombie girl's mouth (this DVD is an UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT, which adds some gore to certain scenes that were not seen in theaters, and I'll get to the extra gore scenes as I write more).
Polley, after being attacked by her now "zombie possessed" husband, manages to escape from her house away from him (it seems once a person gets bitten in this remake, they instantly become zombies depending on their body chemistry and makeup) and sees her entire neighborhood going crazy --- people turning into possessed zombies, running after other people, houses on fire, just complete chaos. After the opening title sequence which follows this opening scene (with a weird song playing by Johnny Cash in the background which didnt really fit the opening title sequence), Polley ends up seeing zombies everywhere eating each other and attacking each other as she drives through town, listening to radio broadcasts about the unidentified "plague" that has swept over this Miluakee town; she ends up running into Ving Rhames, a cop, who, armed with a shotgun, realizes she's not a zombie, and proceeds to try and find other non-infected humans. They both run into three other survivors, and the group make it to a local shopping mall, where they barricade themselves in from the horde of the "living dead" that are descending on the town.
What is never really explained in Dawn of the Dead is how or what this "disease" or "problem" is that created these zombies --- was it the dead coming out of graves and then biting human beings and spreading the disease of "being dead", or was this some kind of plague that started and just made people into zombies? At any rate, in THIS version of Dawn, we have VERY fast moving zombies, running faster than ordinary people, in fact, as compared to the slowpokes of Romero's zombie films, and this all smacks of 28 Days Later for anyone who has seen that British-made film about a flesh-eating virus that turns people into zombies too.
Once inside the mall, the band of human survivors run into some rude, outrageously mean security guards that want to keep the mall for themselves as a hideout, but are eventually convinced to let the new survivors join them. Soon, more survivors show up in a truck and come into the mall to join the group, and then, as the group goes to the roof of the mall to paint an "SOS" sign to alert people in the air that they are alive, they realize that there is another human survivor on the roof of the building across the street named Andy; they communicate with Andy by writing messages on signs back and forth to each other, while below, THOUSANDS of zombies have now gathered, making any escape from the mall impossible.
In the middle of these sub plots is another sub plot revolving around Mekhi Phifer and his pregnant Russian girlfriend, who ends up getting bitten and turning into a zombie herself; as the child is born right there in the mall, it too is a zombie, and must be shot. Because this was an UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT of the film, there is a great deal of added gore here --- specifically a scene where Jake Weber's character is struggling with a zombie trying to bite him and Weber takes a sharp object and jams it right through the zombie's chin and through his brains, where they fly out of his head. Very cool. There are other examples of this added gore, and it makes the film all that much better. THIS is what a gory horror film should be --- not the watered-down crap they made Paramount put out with the Friday the 13th films because they were considered "too gory".....so, what are you watching a horror film for then?
The last of the survivors decide, as a last ditch effort, to take some mall shuttle buses in the garage and equip them with metal protection to "cage in" the buses as they attempt to drive out of the mall and try and get to a marina, where they can get on a boat and hopefully away from the mainland, now crawling with fast moving zombies. The plan works, as the buses make their way into a MASSIVE SEA of angry zombies waiting for them, but once shooting a canister of propane into the crowd of zombies, the buses are once again on the move and on their way to the marina, with the leftover zombies following behind and running after them at a lightning fast pace. And, the golden zombie rule holds true here: you must shoot these ****ers in the head in order to kill them, and Snyder provides some really greusome, up close special effect tricks where the zombies are getting bullets to their heads and brains are flying everywhere......like I said, to me, THIS is what a gory horror picture SHOULD be.
However, there was a dissapointing moment I wanted to mention, where in this so-called UNRATED version, there is a scene where Polley's character is sitting in her car watching zombies eat each other on the back of a bus while a really hot naked chick walks by her car.....however, instead of seeing her tits, we get some blood from Polley's windshield covering up the nudity......huh??? I thought this was supposed to be an unrated version. From what I understand, different region releases of this DVD show those tits in all their glory. Why cant we get that in the U.S.?
There are also some amusing moments of this remake, where "Andy" and Ving Rhames are taking turns shooting different zombies from the rooftops and calling them names of celebrities they look like, such as "tell him to shoot Burt Reynolds!" as a really, really strange jazz version of Disturb's "Down With The Sickness" is playing.
The ending of this remake is a bit confusing, as the survivors make it to the marina, but must leave Jake Weber's character behind because he has been bitten, and as they board a boat to escape, with the zombies right behind them on the deck of the marina, Weber's character puts a gun under his chin and kills himself just before the end credits begin rolling. But the film doesnt end there.....as the end credits play, it is suggested that somehow the survivors on the boat are attacked by more zombies that made it off the marina, or that there are more waiting on an island they decide to sail to....this is made confusing because there are rapidly fast flashes of all this happening between the end credits, and I still dont know what happened at the end of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead.
But, I'll tell you this ---- I enjoyed this remake more than the original, and although I know Im going to get a lot of slack for this, I cannot help how I feel. This was the best remake of the whole bunch of horror remakes to recently come out, and EASILY overpowers the disasters that were The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror. Of course, now we have the new War of the Worlds and soon, I am told, there is going to be a remake of John Carpenter's classic ghost tale The Fog. I have not seen the remake of House of Wax yet, with Paris Hilton.....has this even come out yet? The trailers for the film looked awesome; that pig Hilton did not.
Because, as I mentioned, this was an UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT of the film, this DVD came with added gore moments as well as stickers all over the box that proclaimed UNRATED EXTENDED VERSION TOO SCARY FOR THEATERS! And because I purchased this disc at Best Buy, there was an exclusive added bonus DVD that came with this DVD, exclusive from Best Buy only, with more making-of featurettes and such. The packaging of the DVD is beautiful, along the lines of what Universal did for their Van Helsing release, with a raised-lettered slip case over the standard keepcase, the sticker I mentioned boldly proclaiming TOO SCARY FOR THEATERS!
DUAL LAYER FULL FRAME 1:33:1 VERSION
Because I purchased this DVD when I was still using a 27" 4:3 set, I chose the full screen version.....but it played back fine on my 16X9 set. Now, when I say "fine", dont get me wrong, there are some issues here.....I just meant it filled my widescreen just fine from edge to edge. There is an intentional grittyness to this film, on behalf of Snyder, which makes it look grainy and "newsreel like" in certain spots --- but this is not a transfer problem from Universal. It was to give this film a certain drab, dirty look, and it succeeds. You can see this grain and some of these specks pop up every now and then as you watch carefully, and its throughout the entire film --- it adds to the quick-cut editing Snyder chose for this remake, with the zombies coming at the screen very fast and from different angles.
ENGLISH, SPANISH & FRENCH DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1, ENGLISH CAPTIONS, SUBTITLES IN SPANISH AND FRENCH
Here is a ***** I have with Universal Home Video, and always have: they make these really strange, stupid marketing decisions when putting out their DVDs in which they add DTS tracks to titles like Meet The Parents and Along Came Polly, but give awesome high-action thrillers like Dawn of the Dead and Van Helsing ordinary Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. Now, dont me wrong, the Dolby tracks on these DVDs are probably running at full bitrate --- they sound good. But they could have sounded even BETTER in DTS.
The sound mix on this DVD's English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has a problem in the fact that dialogue is mixed a bit lower than the rest of what is going on; so when you have your volume up to hear what characters are saying --- especially in the very beginning, where the dialogue is downright inaudible sometimes --- suddenly, when there is a zombie attack, you are blown back from the loud effects, and you find yourself playing with the volume control on your remote a lot. But the mix seems to heat up as it goes along, and towards the end, the audio gets downright mean sounding, with the growls of the zombies and the explosions of propane tanks rocking your sound system --- just give this mix a chance, and it will come to life. Bass rocks your sub whenever there is an onscreen explosion or a deep gunshot from a rifle; but one thing I noticed, and it was confirmed by others who have professionally reviewed this disc on other sites, was that there was little surround usage for such a film. It is there mostly to create atmosphere, and the occasional zombie groan comes in through the rears, but believe it or not, this is mainly a front-focused Dolby track. All in all, I think Universal could have done a SLIGHTLY better job with the audio on Dawn.
The special features on this UNRATED DIRECTOR'S CUT were exhausting to get through, and included:
-SPLITTING HEADACHES - ANATOMY OF EXPLODING HEADS
-ATTACK OF THE LIVING DEAD
-RAISING THE DEAD
-THE LOST TAPE: OVER 15 MINUTES OF TERRIFYING FOOTAGE REVEALED
-SPECIAL REPORT: ZOMBIE INVASION
-OVER 12 MINUTES OF DELETED SCENES
-COMMENTARY by Director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman
Enjoy, horror fans!
Last edited by Lexmark3200; 07-03-2005 at 04:51 PM.
Resident DVD Reviewer
I have seen Night of the Living Dead-----both the color and original versions.
Originally Posted by agtpunx40
While I am a huge fan of the original, I also like the remake, but for completely different reasons. Romero's was alot more than just a zombie movie. This remake wasn't, but that's ok too. If you don't expect anything more from it, you will like it. I did. I think Romero's movies were really about the people, not the zombies. Also, the slow zombies create a different atmosphere. It was kind of a ever growing horde, always there, always growing, always building, and getting more and more undefeatable, not because of their strength, but because of the numbers. Really, I think the fast moving zombies trade in this atmosphere for an atmosphere that at any second, an incredibly dangerous single enemy will power his way in. This is sort of there with slow zombies, but not as much. It's more of the feeling of inevitability. The mindset towards the zombies, both of the characters and the viewers is different.
Maybe I am just more drawn to the imagery of the slow growing horde that nothing can stop as the main image of the zombie. Perhaps today, with the fear of terrorism and such, the fear of the crazy individual, or small group is scarrier to more people, and it can be scary, just different. (I'm only 22, so it's not like I grew up in a different time or anything.) Also, because of the fast zombies, and how quickly they take over, you lose this feeling even more. The begining of the original is simply awsome. The tension and disorder is there before you even see a zombie. The tension is there through the characters, not the zombies themselves, which I guess goes back to what I said above. I did really like the remake though, so I'm not complaining. I thought the zombies and gore looked great. The splatter in the opening credits was also cool, haven't seen that in a while. I also liked the cameos of characters from the original. Really, it was barely a remake. The only similarities (other than the cameos) were that there were zombies, and that they were in a mall. If you look at it for what it really is, not a remake, it was a great fun movie, that anyone who likes a good gory sort of scary movie will like, so we do agree on our final conclusion.
Oh yea, they sort of tell you why people are becoming zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Some government scientists sort of tell what they think, but it isn't really confirmed. I don't want to tell you why in case you want to watch it.
well then, remember the government scientists talking about the mysterious radiation and the probe to venus. That is about as close as you get to an explanation, but it was really only implied. Or the good old Dawn of the Dead: "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."
Resident DVD Reviewer
True.....but in the REMAKE version, what started this "walking dead" virus? Did ONE zombie simply pop out of the ground and bite someone and then it spread? And why does it spread by "biting" people? This was never explained.
Originally Posted by agtpunx40
Good point, it never is fully explained by any means. I don't think it ever is supposed to be. Just kind of hinted at. Who cares if it isn't explained in the remake though, the original, made by the original story tellers is what counts. Since Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, and presumably the Dawn of the Dead remake all follow the story line of the original.
Resident DVD Reviewer
Originally Posted by agtpunx40
So then, yes, following the lines of the original, or other Romero classics, exactly what, once more, was supposed to be responsible for bringing these things back to life and wanting to eat living humans?
Resident DVD Reviewer
Thats okay; this was more of an actual review of the DVD itself more than plot analysis anyway.....
Nice job contrasting the 2 films and the sense of dread peculiar to each.
Originally Posted by agtpunx40
I was always a little too squeamish to jump headfirst into the flesh-eating zombie genre. But I've seen Romero's "Night" and "Dawn" and the "Dawn" remake. I've also explored some of the Italian horror masters such as Argento and Bava, but I've been hesitant to check out Lucio Fulci's handful of zombie flicks, the first of which was actually written before Romero's "Dawn" but the script was changed to take advantage of Dawn's success. It was released as "Zombi 2" (a/k/a Zombie) and billed as a sequel to Romero's. With this revival (or, resurrection, if you will) of the zombie film including a comedy/satire like "Shaun of the Dead" kind of mirroring the 1985 comedy/satire "Return of the Living Dead", I would be interested to know how the Fulci films are regarded within the genre. Can anyone comment?
Unfortunately it is exceedingly difficult for me to attain, and many others I suspect, lesser known titles or even foreign films. With Blockbuster and their copycat chains dominating the cities. Luckily there is one place in town which carries entire walls of foreign films separated by country. You could probably do a search on rottentomatoes.com to get someone who has reviewed it. I know Zombi was not that well thought of compared to the Romero films.
The one I will watch again sometime is Day of the Dead. It's interesting because the film tanked and got hit by critics hard but seems to have a growing number of supporters and softening of the initial criticisms. I only saw the film once when younger so I'll have to check it out.
Another one I may rent again is Martin which has been getting some applause on the fringes.
I actually didn't really like zombi. There were 2 great scenes: the very slow impaling of some woman's head on a long sharp splinter, and the zombie v shark fight. Thats the only fulci film I've seen. I've also been wanting to check out Martin for a while. Maybe this weekend.
This movie was filmed, quite literally, across the street from my house.
There was an old mall there that has now been torn down to make way for townhouses and condos. After the mall had been emptied of it's tenants but before demolition began, Universal took it over to build their sound stage and film this movie.
My husband and I watched some of the scenes being filmed. So, when the movie was released, we went to see it in the theatre out of curiousity (I'm not usually into the whole Zombie or horror thing).
Here are a few observations that you might find interesting. I haven't seen the movie since it's original release in the theatre, so forgive me if some of my comments are out of sequence.
At the beginning of the film when Sarah Polly walks out of the hospital entrance, that's really our local hockey rink and community centre.
Near the beginning of the movie, before the core characters reach the mall, they are standing in a tunnel. They turn, run up a small hill and once they get to the top of the hill, they are at the foot of the mall parking lot. I know this tunnel well, it is on the way to my brother's house (who lives less than a mile from me). At one point, while standing in the tunnel, Sarah Polley asks "what if we go that way", I responded quietly to my husband, "you'll pass by Paul's house". Hehehe. There is no hill near the tunnel. There is no hill near the mall. The tunnel and the mall are separated by a major street. So, this 4 second shot was three locations. Tunnel...hill...mall.
The mall in which this was filmed was quite small and there is a railroad track which runs along side it. When the characters reach the mall there is a pan view of the mall. I can see where the real building is. But beyond that the mall continues and is digitally enhanced to put in a building where no building exists. If it did exist, it would have been built on top of the railroad tracks.
The inside the mall was totally gutted and rebuilt for the set. There is no food court. The stores in the movie mall never existed in the real mall. The fountain was really there, but had been completely refinished for the movie. I think in the movie the fountain is black marble. The real fountain was a tan colour. I remember that it was much nicer in the movie.
The elevators in the real mall are not in the same position as in the movie. In fact, I'm not even sure whether these were the real elevators or a set. I suspect they were a set as the only elevators in the real mall are in an office tower attached to the mall and the office tower was not being torn down.
The underground parking garage in the movie was really a multi-level outdoor lot -- above ground. They hung giant black curtains along the outside of the parking lot to make it dark.
Every day when I drove home from work, I could see the words "Help! Alive Inside" painted on the roof of the mall. We watched them film scenes up there.
What I thought was the most amazing part of seeing how a movie is put together...the building across the street from the mall, where the guy is alone, doesn't exist anywhere in this neighbourhood. In all those scenes where the people in the mall and this guy are communicating, they aren't really communicating. I think that these scenes would have had to be filmed separately and then edited together.
Near the end of the movie, when they break out of the mall the camera pans the neighbourhood and you can see apartment buildings on fire. One of those apartment buildings is sitting on my house!!!! No apartment building exist there. All digitally put into the picture.
We watched a few of the outdoor scenes being filmed. My favourite was the scene where they are trying to escape and the busses break out of the parking lot and are attacked by the Zombies. Before the busses come out, the Zombies are milling around the parking lot. There were about 200 extras in the parking lot, which were made to look like 2000 zombies in the movie.. As they're milling about, we could hear the director telling them what to do. "You're hungry Zombies. You're like snapping turtles. I want to see you snap." LOL. My husband and I still crack jokes about the snapping turtle zombies.
Do the "making of" extras on the DVD cover any of this? I'd be very curious to see that disk. Perhaps I'll rent the movie just to see the 'extras'.
Thanks for sharing, FA. Interesting insight. I haven't rented this yet, but I've seen it on a premium channel. If I rent it I'll check out the dvd extras to see what they say about your town. If they don't say anything, then we'll get you in for the commentary for the Anniversary Edition, Superbit Edition, or Extra, extra special edition.
Originally Posted by ForeverAutumn
I watched some of the filming of "Under Seige" on the Battleship USS Alabama in Mobile Bay and some Brian Bosworth (ex-linebacker) flick that was filmed partly in Mobile.
Last edited by dean_martin; 07-06-2005 at 06:56 PM.
Reason: forgot the name of that fine actor Brian Bosworth
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